I've blogged a bit before about what I call the emerging real-time Internet. In fact it's about more than real-time communication, because personalization is a big part of it, too. A lot of smart people I chat with sense that there exists some confluence of IM, chat, presence, weblogs, social networking, search, relevance rankings, pubsub, RSS/Atom, and other technologies that will provide the platform for next-generation Internet applications. Consider:
Common themes here include filtering based on relevance to me or to a group of which I'm a member, the ability to provide feedback regarding that relevance, immediacy (I want it pushed it to me, but only if I will find it worth my attention), smart groups that enable me to find people of interest and block out the losers, and tapping into the editorial intelligence of people I respect and admire.
One insight that became stronger for me at the recent IAB messaging summit is that the flow of information and messaging will eventually become unwieldy for most people connected to the Internet (as it already is for power users like me). Personally, I want to access the tremendous information flow out there and connect to the online world, but I want the information I receive and people I communicate with to be worthy of my attention (which is my most precious resource). In fact, I want that information faster than ever (the need for speed), but only if it is relevant and of interest. Some kind of filtering mechanism out there needs to learn what I find interesting, and learn fast from what I tell it. To some extent other people already if unwittingly perform that function on my behalf (thus the attraction of at least some weblogs), but I'd sure like to have some kind of communications console working to filter the flow for me.
The company that gets this right is going to have a powerful platform at its disposal, and I don't want that company to be Microsoft -- not that I would use their stuff anyway, since it has to be a company that's not evil (but lots of regular folks would use it, which scares me). Gmail+, perhaps? Some killer app for OS X? Google has the relevance-matching skills to make this work (though probably not at the level of the individual), and Apple has the user interface smarts. The Jabber community has some of the underlying delivery and real-time communication technologies (via XMPP and pubsub), but we're just a bunch of protocol geeks. RSS and Atom are a big part of this (see also Atom over XMPP), perhaps even to the level of diablogs. We need traditional IM contact lists to integrate better with the social networking world (FOAF, anyone?). We need to filter ingoing and outgoing messages and presence in much more intelligent ways (it's in RFC 3921 but not yet in Jabber clients and servers).
Obviously a lot of technologies and trends need to come together in order for this to happen. But I do think it will happen, because otherwise the net will become unusable. Well, the net is too powerful for people to stop using it altogether, but a service that directs my attention to things that will most interest me and stimulate my thinking would make its users so much more productive that someone is bound to offer such a service (and make a handsome profit in the process).
Peter Saint-Andre > Journal